Super Bowl Offers To Pay Halftime Dancers In Exposure Bucks

Class War
Super Bowl Offers To Pay Halftime Dancers In Exposure Bucks

The Super Bowl, traditionally, is a massive moneymaking venture for all involved. The NFL, the station that broadcasts it, the cities that host it, the players who play in it, the celebrities who appear in advertisements that play during it ... there's a lot of cash to go around.

Notably, artists who perform during the Super Bowl halftime show don't get paid to do so. They do it for free because, more often than not, the performance results in them subsequently raking in a ton of money from music sales. Unless they're Janet Jackson and their entire career gets derailed because oh no, people accidentally saw a nipple and are for some reason scarred for life. A nipple that is no different from the many, many male nipples regularly broadcast on screens across America.

But I digress. It's one thing for performers like J.Lo, Shakira, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and whoever the hell else to do the Super Bowl for free. They're already extremely rich and actually are getting something tangible out of it.

However, veteran dancer and choreographer Taja Riley shared on Instagram this week that she's received several messages from other dance artists asking them to dance in this year's Super Bowl halftime show, starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, for free.


Not only are they asked to do this work for free, Riley says they're expected to pay for their own transportation and food. They're also being asked sign an nondisclosure agreement before they can even be told what the job will entail, meaning they could hypothetically lose money were they to break the NDA.

Via Taja Riley's Instagram:

Over the last couple days many of my dance artist friends received a casting email, or DM via their agent, friend, or the Super Bowl Coordinator @kristannesta , asking if any dance artists (with emphasis on pre-Dominantly African American Movers), would be interested to “volunteer for free” as talent for the Super Bowl Halftime show.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain but the Super Bowl is the most PROFITABLE GLOBAL SPORTING EVENT ON ANY GIVEN YEAR.

Why be cheap, especially on such an incredibly important performance honoring, + showcasing African American talent?

I’m wondering how many ppl involved are aware of this ask, + are willing to wield their power adding budget to include paying their qualified talent 4 their time, effort, + skill set. @jessecollinsent @fatima_noir @pepsi @superbowl2022 @sagaftra @officialfrandrescher

Based on All the info listed above, here are things that I find fishy: asking to sign an NDA b4 learning how the “volunteers” will be utilized, work exertion hours + “volunteering period”, having to pay your own transportation/food, not knowing who will be handling/directing the “volunteers”. And last but certainly not least —> agents allowing for their signed talent to even consider doing this. @blocla

In previous yrs The Super Bowl has been known to pull in locals to volunteer as concert go-ers but to qualify as a “volunteer”, production CANNOT require them to learn any choreography, unless they must be PAIDDDD.

dance artists that are looking to move forward w/ this: i resonate w/ wanting to elevate the resume, but I don’t think it’s cool for big budget productions (approved by the union) to take advantage of newer dance artists when it concerns “exposure”. Posting this in hopes that we can improve this situation for them + raise awareness to prepare future dance artists to receive specificity in deliverables prior to signing paperwork.

This is not usual at all for the Super Bowl. While musical artists are not paid, everyone else involved in making the production happen is. The 2020 halftime show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira cost $13 million, which covered the staff of 3,000 required to make it happen, and that included paying the dancers. Dancers who are not going to wake up the next day to piles of money resulting from album sales. As Riley notes, it's particularly sketchy given that this year they are looking specifically for Black dancers.

While dancing at the Super Bowl is certainly good for one's resume, artists taking jobs for "exposure" makes it more difficult to earn money doing said art down the line, because then everyone thinks they can pay in "exposure." Professional dancers frequently do not make a ton of money to begin with, particularly when you take into account the years of training it takes to become one. "Making it" in ballet usually means, at best, a $60,000 a year salary in a New York dance company. The median salary for ballet dancers is only around $30,000. Those who dance in music videos frequently make around $500 a day while filming one. And sure, there's more money to be made for those at the very top, but not that much more and not for very long. Thus, it's pretty important for major gigs like the Super Bowl to pay dancers to perform.

Hopefully this will be embarrassing enough for them that they change their mind and decide they're better off paying their dancers fairly.

[Taja Riley]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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